Every month, Utne Reader previews a selection of current and upcoming independent film and documentary releases. This sampler was curated by editor Ben Sauder.
December 2016 Film SamplerSELECT NEW RELEASES
Could humans live on Mars? Would we want to? Emmy-nominated filmmaker, Ian Cheney, provides insight into our currently unsustainable relationship with our home planet by examining the sci-fi speculation of "terraforming," or making another planet Earth-like, by altering its atmosphere. He calls on a multifaceted brain trust to process this big idea including a desert camp of Mars hopefuls, a bevy of sci-fi writers, Hurricane Sandy survivors, the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club, and a who's who of astrobiologists and earth scientists. BLUESPACE makes a strong case for taking better care of our water-rich planet so that future generations won't have to resort to interplanetary colonization. (Distributor synopsis)
Best and Most Beautiful Things
In rural Maine, a bright and magnetic 20-year-old woman named Michelle Smith lives with her mother. Legally blind and on the autism spectrum, Michelle defies labels as she chases big dreams with humor and bold curiosity. Searching for community, Michelle explores an uncensored world online and experiences a provocative sexual awakening. Her joyful story of self-discovery celebrates outcasts everywhere. (Distributor synopsis)
Ron "Stray Dog" Hall lives in Southern Missouri where he owns and operates the At Ease RV Park. After years of living alone with his dogs, he is adjusting to life with his wife, Alicia, who is newly arrived from Mexico. Anchored by his small dogs and big bikes, Stray Dog seeks to strike a balance between his commitment to his family, neighbors, biker brotherhood, and fellow veterans. As part of the legacy of fighting in the Vietnam War, he wrestles with the everlasting puzzle of conscience, remorse, and forgiveness. (Distributor synopsis)
Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past
What does it take to keep Jazz Age music going strong in the 21st century? Two words: Vince Giordano — a bandleader, musician, historian, scholar, collector, and NYC institution. For nearly 40 years, Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks have brought the joyful syncopation of the 1920s and ‘30s to life with their virtuosity, vintage musical instruments, and more than 60,000 period band arrangements. This beautifully crafted documentary offers an intimate and energetic portrait of a truly devoted musician and preservationist, taking us behind the scenes of the recording of HBO’s Grammy award-winning Boardwalk Empire soundtrack, and alongside Giordano as he shares his passion for hot jazz with a new generation of music and swing-dance fans. (Jacob Burns Film Center)